Our Fall Agenda

This spring Justice United organized five public actions and won hundreds of thousands in public investment to launch a new affordable housing pilot program (master leasing) and to increase teacher diversity in Orange County. You can read our mid-year report here.

On Thursday August 22, 46 Justice United leaders met at Piney Grove Missionary Baptist Church to shape and ratify a strategy to continue addressing these important issues. Leaders pledged to send 31 members to attend IAF University (see dates and times below), and to engage over 200 members of their community in house meetings between August 22 and December 5. 

What’s Next for Justice United? 

Justice United’s fall agenda is focused on holding candidates for the Orange County Board of County Commissioners and the OC Board of Education accountable to our grassroots agenda for change.

Both elected bodies have significant decision making power and impact on the everyday lives of Orange County residents. The County has the ability to expand our pilot master leasing program to more quickly house homeless families, and the Board of Education can do more to advance our campaign to increasing teacher diversity and bi-lingual staff at Orange County Schools.  

Candidates will be running in the spring 2020 primary elections, which will be held far earlier than normal. North Carolina is now a Super Tuesday state, and will hold primaries on March 3 (early voting starts February 12). If we want to be ready to take advantage of this primary election cycle we have to get ready now, before the holiday season arrives in late November - December.

IAF University and House Meetings

With this in mind, JU leaders have committed to develop or strengthen Core Teams of leaders within our institutions. This fall, these Core Teams will organize a series of house meetings designed to: 1) brief members on our current issue campaigns and the primary, and 2) surface new pressures facing our communities today. These house meetings will build our base of support for our public action in February.

These workshops will be held in Hillsborough on September 12 and September 19, and in Chapel Hill on October 17. Please confirm your attendance today! 

Questions? Email [email protected] if you have any questions. 

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Thank you! Here's What's next

Justice United Members and Supporters: 

Thank you! Your investment of time, talent, and money this spring has allowed Justice United to address the top concerns in our communities.

Together over the last six months we organized five public actions and won tens of thousands of dollars in public investment to launch a new affordable housing pilot program (master leasing). Thanks to this program five extremely low income families and individuals now are living in housing that they could not otherwise afford.

At this point we also appear to be on track to win funding for key diversity hiring and equity initiatives at Orange County Schools. The final budget for the district will be approved soon. 

Over 30 JU leaders met last night to evaluate our public actions this spring and pledged participation in upcoming actions and events. The pledge sheet from the leaders meeting is available here

Please read below to learn more about what's next.

Please save the date for these important upcoming events! 

Press Conference
Monday, July 1, 7:00 PM
Hillsborough (location TBD)
Confirm your attendance here

Join us to mark the beginning of a new fiscal year for Orange County Schools with a capstone, press conference action. Justice United leaders will react to the final budget approved by the Board of Education, and will lay out our community-led vision for 2019/2020. 

JU leaders are monitoring the current budget process. We have called on the Board of Education to prioritize funding for key diversity and hiring initiatives including: the strengthening of the teacher hiring pipeline through a "Grow Your Own" teacher assistant to teacher program. 

Relational Meeting Event
Tuesday, July 30, 6:30 - 8:30 PM
Hillsborough (location TBD)
Confirm your attendance here

This event will allow for fellowship over dinner and two, 30 minute long conversations between participants (training will be provided to help participants navigate these conversations). It is based on Justice United's successful April 2 event that brought together over 50 members of our diverse institutions. The goal is to increase our countywide power base by strengthening relationships across Justice United's broad membership. 

Issue Briefing at Your Institution
After service, or at other appropriate times
Turnout goal: At least 10 members

Learn how your congregation has taken action through Justice United to make change in the community, and to advance your institution's mission and values. This briefing will be co-led by leaders from your institution and Justice United organizer Devin Ross. More information about each briefing will be publicized internally within participating members institutions. 

Contact Devin at [email protected] to plan an issue briefing in your community. 


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Fund Diversity, Fund Equity

Justice United calls on the Orange County Schools Board of Education to FUND DIVERSITY and FUND EQUITY initiatives at Orange County Schools. 

On April 11, Board members Brenda Stephens, Sarah Smylie, and Superintendent Todd Wirt attended a Justice United meeting to brief JU leaders on new initiatives to address their concerns on increasing teacher diversity and bi-lingual front office staff at Orange County Schools.

These initiatives include:

  • A new HR position to focus on diversity recruitment and hiring (listed as "Human Capital Management"). This new position will coordinate district recruitment efforts and outreach to university partners, and will lead a recruitment task force to address district hiring barriers and challenges facing teachers of color;

  • Tuition assistance for Orange County Schools staff pursuing one year alternative teacher preparation program that results in teacher certification (listed as "Recruitment and Talent Management").

  • Professional development series to cover equity, inclusion, and cultural awareness throughout the district (listed as "Staff PD Joint Venture").

[see 2019/2020 Continuation/Expansion Budget Request here]

We believe that these initiatives have the potential to increase and retain a more diverse staff - a key concern for Justice United members. 

The County Manager has recommended a per pupil funding increase that is sufficient to pay for these initiatives - but not the full budget expansion requested by the Board of Education, which includes other items such as Maternity / Paternity Leave and restoring TA Workdays.

If the Board of Education does not get their full expansion request they must prioritize the funding of these initiatives in order for them to become reality. Justice United calls on the Board of Education to fund diversity and fund equity first! 

Superintendent Wirt briefs JU leaders on diversity hiring and equity initiatives (April 11)

Justice United leaders call on Board of County Commissioners to approve funding for initiatives (May 14) 

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Superintendent Wirt Resigns

Last night Superintendent Wirt announced his resignation at the Orange County Board of Education meeting, effective June 30 (press link). This is an unexpected development, and it gives our May 9 Assembly even greater urgency.

Now, more than ever, we need your support. Please read below for important background to this announcement, and to learn how you can help us take effective action on May 9. 


Less than two weeks ago Dr. Wirt joined Orange County Board of Education Chair Brenda Stephens and Vice Chair Sarah Smylie at Justice United's Countywide Leaders Meeting to hear our reactions to strategies that they have developed to address concerns on the lack of teacher diversity and the need for more front office, bi-lingual staff within Orange County Schools. Read the report from our meeting here.

These strategies have the potential to strengthen the school system's hiring pipeline sufficient to increase teacher diversity and bi-lingual staff. However, in order for this to become a reality the Orange County Board of County Commissioners must first approve a per pupil funding increase requested by Orange County Schools which will pay for these initiatives. 

Orange County will hold two public budget hearings the week following our Assembly on May 14 and May 16. This is our opportunity to show up and support the OCS funding request for these hiring strategies. 

Justice United has invited Board Chair Stephens and Vice Chair Smylie to attend our May 9 Assembly to brief our membership on these strategies. Following their presentation we will caucus to pledge support for their budget request. 

Dr. Wirt's unexpected resignation has given our Assembly greater urgency. Now is the time to act to get this deal funded, before we encounter the inevitable delays associated with the Superintendent's transition.  

How You Can Help

Please follow these three steps to help us take action to address this key community issue: 

1) Confirm your attendance today for our May 9 Assembly

2) Recruit others from your institution to attend. Our goal is to deliver 300 members to this action. Turnout pledges from your institution are available here for reference

3) RSVP to attend one or both of the public budget hearings to support the Orange County Schools budget requestWe will discuss this request at our May 9 Assembly. 

Public Budget Hearing 1, May 14, 7:00 PM, Whitted Building, Hillsborough

Public Budget Hearing 2, May 16, 7:00 PM, Southern Human Services Center, Chapel Hill

Additional Resources: 

Bi-lingual assembly flyer. Download and distribute within your community.

Orange County Schools Goals for Hiring and Diversity (presented to JU on 4/11/19)

Questions? Email Justice United Organizer Devin Ross at [email protected], or text/call at 919 358 5828.


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Report from Meeting with Board of Ed.

On Thursday, April 11 Orange County Schools Board Chair Brenda Stephens, Vice Chair Sarah Smylie, and Superintendent Todd Wirt attended Justice United's Countywide Leaders Meeting to report on their progress increasing teacher diversity and bi-lingual, front office staff. 40 Justice United members were in attendance at the Cedar Grove Community Center. 

Their report covered the following:

  • Line item detail on the $180,000 cost associated with the Equity Department (down from $350,000);
  • Clarity on how the $206,000 mentioned in the 2020 Superintendents Recommended Local Budget will be used for Recruitment and Talent Management;

  • Discussion of how staff and community members will be selected for a Recruitment and Retention Task Force, and the role of this task force;

  • The Board's strategy for hiring bi-lingual front office staff in every school.

After the OCS leadership left JU leaders continued our meeting to evaluate the report and to develop our strategy for our public assembly on Thursday, May 9, 7:00 pm at Lattisville Grove MBC (1701 Jimmy Ed Rd, Hurdle Mills). 

These developments appear to be promising, and have potential to begin to address our concerns. However, in order for any of the above developments to become reality the Board of County Commissioners must first approve a per pupil funding increase requested by Orange County Schools which will fund these initiatives.

There will be two public hearings on Orange County's budget the week following our May 9 Assembly. Following our assembly, Justice United could organize turnout and support behind the Board of Education’s budget request to each of these hearings. 

JU leaders invited Board Chair Stephens, Vice Chair Smylie, and Superintendent Wirt to attend our assembly on May 9 to be recognized for their progress addressing our concerns. Our action will be an opportunity for OCS leaders to make the case for supporting their per pupil funding increase.  

Justice United leaders pledged to deliver 307 members to support this action. Have you confirmed your attendance to this important assembly? Please follow this link to RSVP today.

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Master Leasing: More Housing, Faster

Patrick Watkins, IFC Community House leader and member of Justice United's Affordable Housing Team

It is clear that we need more housing, faster, especially for residents with extremely low incomes: those earning less than $22,000 / year.

There are currently zero units on the private market in Orange County affordable to residents with extremely low incomes. There are only 468 subsidized units available to residents with extremely low incomes, with only 46 new units planned for development in the next five years. This amount is far lower than what is needed. The IFC alone has over 70 beds for homeless residents at HomeStart and the Community House. 

That’s why Justice United’s affordable housing team has worked closely with affordable housing service providers and the Chamber of Commerce to develop a new strategy called Master Leasing to get residents into safe, decent, affordable housing more quickly.

Think of Master Leasing as subletting with a social mission. Rather than buy or build units, we would lease them. A non-profit organization would master lease rental units throughout the community at existing market rates and then sublease the units at affordable rates to qualified, pre-screened tenants. 

Master leasing allows us to take advantage of the thousands of existing units on the private market as a mid-term strategy to house extremely low income residents while new, permanently affordable units are constructed over the next five years. 

In order to make this a reality, we will need to do three things well: partner with private sector property owners who are willing to participate in the program; find a non-profit partner to administer the program; and of course, find funding.

Over the last year our team has made progress on all fronts. We have partnered with Clay Grubb, CEO of Grubb Properties, who has committed up to 10 units to the program. The Community Home Trust, a widely respected non-profit housing provider in Chapel Hill, has agreed to administer the program. Working with Justice United, the CHT has applied to the Town of Chapel Hill's Affordable Housing Development Reserve Fund for two years worth of funding for the first five master leased units. 

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Two Easy Ways You Can Support Affordable Housing in Chapel Hill

If you are a Chapel Hill voter there are two easy ways for you to support affordable housing in Chapel Hill this fall:  

Follow this link to PLEDGE TO VOTE YES for the Chapel Hill Affordable Housing Bond during early voting or the election, or text YES TO (919) 328 3966. 

RSVP FOR OUR SOULS TO THE POLLS RALLY for affordable housing on Sunday, October 21, 12:30 PM at Peace and Justice Plaza. 

More information about the bond is available at housingorange.org.

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Three Ways You Can Make Real Change this Fall

Aren't national politics depressing? Partisan, cynical, divisive. It doesn't have to be this way.

Justice United's politics are rooted in, well, the root of politics. "Politics" comes from the Greek word polis, which translates roughly to "the life of the city." Justice United acts for the whole.  

We believe in the affirmative individual (most people will do the right thing, given the opportunity) and that people are happiest when their lives are enmeshed in caring face-to-face relationships, building their communities together. 

This fall help Justice United reclaim politics and make real change in Orange County. Support these three actions to make our county a better place to live, work, and worship. 


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Invest in Change - Become a Sustainer Today

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